In June, we sent a Freedom of Information request to ask what meetings members of the Scottish Government had been having with the Craighouse Partnership and their lobbyists. We were interested to know how much the Scottish Government had been involved in the Craighouse development, especially as we have been refused meetings ourselves with Scottish ministers and officials.
They should have taken 20 days to deal with this request by law.
A month later, the deadline ran out and we were told to wait a little longer. Ok, we understood this – there were a lot of diaries to chase up.
After another month, we’d heard precisely nothing. So we checked up, and were told that the information was all gathered and was just waiting for “clearance” from higher up.
Another month went by…
To our surprise we learned it was awaiting “clearance” from the media department. But that wasn’t all. After that it would need ministerial clearance.
We were given no deadlines and could not even complain to the Information Commissioner because the Government hadn’t refused, they were just not giving us any information, or any deadline or explanation. For months.
It was now 3 months since we put in our request. They should take only 20 days by law and there was still no sign of us ever receiving a response.
We discovered that – despite them saying it was being dealt with – that these delaying tactics could mean we’d lose our right to appeal – so, we decided to ask for a review to see if this would get things moving. This allowed them another 20 days to respond. The deadline for the review is up today.
It’s now over 4 months – 91 working days – since we put in our request. Astonishing for a system which is supposed to take 20 working days in law.
What could this information be that would take so long to get media and ministerial clearance?
Have the Scottish Government been having meetings with the Craighouse Partnership? Are there aspects of those meetings that a) they don’t want to release or b) may be sensitive in media terms?
What we do know is that Mountgrange have been making media appearances recently.
As you will know if you read the website regularly, Manish Chande is one of the partners of Mountgrange which bought the Craighouse site. Before Craighouse, its previous incarnation, Mountgrange Capital, was granted consent for the failed Caltongate scheme which included the demolition of historic buildings in and around the Royal Mile in the World Heritage Site, triggering a UNESCO investigation. Mountgrange Capital went into administration in 2009 with £70m of debts to Bank of Scotland. Manish Chande took out £1.5million in a dividend just months before it crashed. You can read all about these issues here. https://friendsofcraighouse.com/2013/07/18/whatever-happened-to-the-missing-mountgrange-millions/
In this picture, Chande and Sturgeon stand in the rubble of a listed building – the B-listed Odeon Cinema – laying the foundations of a massive office building in Glasgow: something local campaigners wanted to stop because it would seriously damage this much loved historic local landmark. Mountgrange have demolished it except for a small facade – out the back of which they are building a ten-storey glass office block.
Why is Nicola Surgeon appearing in the papers with Manish Chande, yet ministers refuse to meet the local community of a highly protected site where he is trying to push through excessive development against planning policies and protections?
Why are they taking so long to release any information at all about what meetings and talks have taken place?
If Scottish Ministers and politicians spent so long talking to members of the Craighouse Partnership that it takes over 4 months (and counting) to compile all the meetings they had – shouldn’t they meet the communities on the other side of the debate? (See this earlier article on access and lobbying.)
The Friends of Craighouse is a non-party-political community group. We are happy to work with all our local and national politicians and we take no party political stance. Our management team come from all corners of the political spectrum.
However, photo opportunities with a top minister and the platform being given to Mountgrange on the Scottish Government blog concern us deeply.
We hope that if and when we eventually receive the Freedom of Information release, that any ministers and politicians meeting with and listening to the arguments of Mountgrange – will offer equal time and consideration to those communities directly affected by the kind of controversial developments and land speculation undertaken by offshore companies like Mountgrange.
We would like to put a request to the Scottish Government ministers to meet with the Friends of Craighouse, where we would hope to be given a proper opportunity to put our concerns to them and talk to them about the importance of the beautiful and highly protected Craighouse site to the local community, to Edinburgh and nationally.
We hope they will consider our request.
Other articles on similar topics and background info: